You'd be hard pressed to find a large or even a mid-sized business enterprise customer that hasn't embraced carrier Ethernet (or is in the process of upgrading its legacy lines to Ethernet) as their foundation for data, voice and, yes, video. But if you're a customer that has multiple locations in various regions, you want your Ethernet service to come from one operator. Of course, the reality is that when it comes to Ethernet none of the largest service providers have network facilities built out everywhere.
Okay, but much like the interconnection of good ol' voice and later legacy data services (X.25, Frame Relay and ATM) for customers that wanted one service provider regardless of location, the advent of the Ethernet Network to Network Interconnection (E-NNI) concept is really applying an existing idea to a new problem. In this case it's about expanding the availability of Ethernet. Of course, major and even competitive U.S. carriers providing Ethernet have been diligent at establishing off-net relationships with an array of access and E-NNI partners to address customer needs in off-net locations.
As compelling as that growth is, I think the real opportunity is providing international Ethernet services. Interestingly, it's been a busy week for Ethernet NNI so far with new announcements from Verizon and the emergence of the Carrier Ethernet Network Exchange (CENX).
First up is Verizon and the global expansion of its Virtual Private LAN Service (VPLS) offering. The ILEC announced that its VPLS service is not only available in the U.S., but also in various regions of Europe and Asia Pacific. And while Verizon has an extensive on-net international Ethernet footprint (44 cities in Europe and five Asia Pac cities), the service provider is complementing that reach through off-net arrangements with a host of third-party service provider partners. Still, Verizon won't just invite anyone to its Off-Net Ethernet party.
Verizon told me they put all of their access (currently 125 agreements) and E-NNI (133 E-NNIs) through a stringent certification program. Mike Volgende, director of global Ethernet solutions for Verizon Business, explained that any of its third-party E-NNI or access partners must ensure a proper level of Quality of Service to pass onto its end-customers. "To complement our on-net arrangements, we have implemented a rigid certification process for third-party Ethernet carriers that fully integrate those off-net access arrangements as part of our global service arrangement we are delivering to our customers," said Volgende. "The reason why we have a certification process is we want to ensure a consistent level of service to our end-user customers."
No less compelling is Ethernet pioneer Nan Chen who finally took the covers off his new company Carrier Ethernet Network Exchange (CENX). Similar to the advent of the data center craze that emerged in the late 1990s for Internet peering, CENX has established a carrier neutral, co-location/data-center neutral, carrier Ethernet exchange. These three Ethernet exchanges, which have been initially launched in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, will as Chen told me 'streamline' Carrier Ethernet interconnection by giving any Ethernet provider a common connection instead of having to carve out specific connections with other carriers that can often take months to finish.
Nan is not the only one entering the Carrier Ethernet exchange race as data center provider Equinix previously announced its own Ethernet exchange last month.
Regardless of the method a service provider uses to expand its off-net presence--an Ethernet exchange, a new standard or by a third parties interconnection agreement--all the MNC customer wants to know is 'hey, is my service up and running and if I have a problem I can call one number and get it fixed or I can call a sales rep to add a new service or increase my respective bandwidth.'
Going global with Ethernet is not just about technology, but rather about providing a consistent look and feel regardless of the location or the network arrangement the carrier has to establish to meet a business customer's needs.